The Meadows Blog

Wednesday, 11 January 2017 11:26

Four Ways to Practice Mindfulness Every Day

Mindfulness Mindfulness

By Joyce Willis, MC, LPC, Therapist, The Meadows

What is mindfulness?

The great leaders of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield, tell us that mindfulness is the art of paying attention to what you are doing and what is going on around you in the present moment.

Mindfulness is the art of living with a non-judging, patient and accepting mind.

Mindfulness is about living life with openness; as if seeing things or meeting people for the first time and experiencing possibilities by paying attention and being curious. With nature this is easy; we can sit outside and look at nature and see trees, the sky and birds as if seeing them for the first time. We can go back the next day and sit in the same spot and be curious as to what is new and how things are different.

Sometimes, with people, this is a bit more difficult. Can you be open to who a person is today even if the person in front of you is someone you have known all your life? Can you be curious as to who this person is today, in this moment in a non-judging, patient and accepting manner?

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Incorporating these qualities of non-judging, patience, acceptance and openness in our lives leads to a more peaceful, stress-free life. Mindfulness has both psychological/emotional and medical benefits. Much research has been done by the masters of mindfulness that support the benefits of practicing mindfulness daily.

Psychologically and emotionally, mindfulness can decrease depression, decrease anxiety, decrease panic, and decrease triggers for substances or process addictions, such as gambling. Medically, research has shown that mindfulness can decrease psoriasis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, hypertension and asthma. Practicing mindfulness helps us increase self-awareness and increase acceptance.

Thus, it makes sense that psychological/emotional and medical symptoms can decrease; if we are increasing awareness and increasing acceptance for ourselves, we are grounding ourselves, calming ourselves and helping our body and mind connect in a way that is healing.

Incorporating More Mindfulness into Your Life

So, how can you incorporate mindfulness in your life? Let’s consider four actions that are an easy beginning to bringing mindfulness into your life:

  • Non-conceptual
  • Present-centered
  • Non-judging
  • Intention

Non-conceptual has to do with being aware without being tied into the thought process or the outcome. Can you just be aware and notice; notice yourself, your thoughts, your emotions and notice who and what is around you?

Present-Centered has to do with being in this moment right now. Mindfulness is always about being in the present moment. Are you in the present moment right now? Are you in the present moment when you are talking, listening, eating, driving, doing dishes, reading…?

Non-judging has to do with not judging yourself and others. Can you be aware of yourself and others without judgment? Can you be in the present without labeling yourself or telling yourself negative thoughts; can you do the same for others in this present moment?

Intention is one of the most fundamental elements of mindfulness. With every moment, what is my intention? If I set an intention for the day, such as “I will practice acceptance today,” that intention can guide my entire day. What is your intention today?

Mindfulness in daily practice can be done formally or informally. Examples of formal practices of mindfulness are listening to a guided meditation, sitting silently at a specified time, listening to music with just the intention of listening and being present. Basically, formal mindfulness has to do with investing our time and energy to a certain time of day to sit and just be. Formal practice has to do with scheduling that “stop” in our daily activities and bringing attention to a mediation, whether that meditation is a guided meditation, a silent sitting meditation or a silent walking meditation. If we have scheduled a time for mindfulness, that is a formal practice. Informal mindfulness has to do with our everyday activities. Whatever I am doing throughout the day, I can do with mindfulness; paying attention in the present moment to what I am doing. Am I fully experiencing my daily activities; showering, brushing my teeth, talking and listening to the people in my life, driving without distraction, walking, eating…? Every action I do can be a mindful action!

A Formula For Mindfulness

Whether we are practicing mindfulness formally or informally, there is simple formula we can use. We just need to remember four words; Stop, Breath, Reflect, Choose.

STOP – It starts with STOP! As soon as possible, pay attention to a negative thought or a troubling sensation. By paying attention, you give yourself a chance to get out of automatic pilot and into the present moment and into a mindful way of being.

Breathe – Just breathe; bring your attention to your breathing and the effect it has on your body and the activity in your mind. Take a few conscious breaths to help you settle and slow the process of reacting, so you can act instead of react! Send yourself the message to relax, release, and let go.

Reflect – What is your insight about this situation? This is the time to have a silent conversation with yourself about your insight. Once you have this conversation, you are ready to choose…

Choose – Decide what your best action is or decision to make in this present situation. The Stop, Breathe, Reflect and Choose practice can be applied to any area of our daily lives and in with many situations; anger, road rage, negative thoughts, triggers, stress, and relationships.

So, how will you live mindfully today?

Mindfulness and Addiction Treatment

The Meadows incorporates Mindfulness techniques and practices into many treatments, from lectures and practical exercises to its emphasis in meditation and Yoga. While it isn’t always called "Mindfulness," much of the therapeutic work at The Meadows serves to increase mindful awareness and acceptance of various bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts that might have caused pain or suffering in the past. To learn more about The Meadows' Yoga, Tai Chi, Acupuncture and Mindfulness Meditation programs, call 800-244-4949.

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